’Beyond Brexit’ event addresses the promotion of human rights and equality in EU-UK deal

Beyond Brexit event / 6 November 2018, European Parliament, Brussels

ENNHRI, Equinet (the European network of equality bodies) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission held an event on 6 November 2018 at the European Parliament in Brussels focusing on the inclusion of human rights and democracy clauses in the EU-UK deal after Brexit and the role of NHRIs and equality bodies in this respect.

The event was hosted by Sajjad Karim MEP, and also included participation in roundtable discussion by Heidi Hautala MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Melanie Field (Equality and Human Rights Commission), Elin Wrzoncki (ENNHRI) and Gaelle Dusepulchre (International Federation of Human Rights).

The discussion raised a number of questions that are pertinent to the human rights implications of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. For example, this included what a model human rights and democracy clause would look like and concrete steps towards putting human rights and equality and the centre of trade discussions while searching for good practices amongst existing human rights clauses between EU and partner countries.

A number of suggestions were made for entrenching human rights and equality in the UK’s withdrawal process with regard to trade agreement, such as:

  • Meaningful consultation with businesses and civil society organisations in trade agreements
  • Proper analysis of the human rights and other implications on trade agreements through human rights impact assessments
  • Encouraging businesses to comply with international mechanisms
  • Designing instruments for permanent monitoring of risks in trade agreements
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Sajjad Karim MEP speaking at the Beyond Brexit event

The EU was recognised as being a front runner in the integration of human rights in trade policy, with the existence of human rights clauses, impact assessments and monitoring mechanisms. However, it was questioned the extent to which these instruments are being used and implemented on the ground.

Moreover, it was noted that Equality and Human Rights Commission and civil society in UK have called for the inclusion of human rights and democracy clauses in the Trade Bill currently passing through the British Parliament that are at least equal to the EU’s standards, while others emphasise that this is also an opportunity to introduce higher standards.